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The Soy conundrum

The fact that unfermented soy is widely regarded as a health food in the United States is a perfect example of how a brilliant marketing strategy can fool millions.

It all started when the food industry, presented with a quandary over what to do with the byproducts of their ever-growing soybean oil industry, had an idea.

With some processing, and some added flavorings, preservatives, sweeteners, emulsifiers and synthetic nutrients, they turned soy protein isolate (the key ingredient in most soy foods that imitate meat and dairy products), “the food processors’ ugly duckling,” as Sally Fallon put it, “into a New Age Cinderella.”

How Did Soy Become so Popular?

Years ago, tropical oils, such as palm and coconut oil, were commonly used in American food production. Spurred by financial incentives, the industry devised a plan to shift the market from these “exotic” tropical oils to something more “homegrown.” As a result, a movement was created to demonize and vilify tropical oils in order to replace them with domestically grown oils such as corn and, primarily, soy.

For the most part, they’ve been very successful in their campaign to paint soy in a healthy light, and this belief was further propagated by the FDA’s 1999 approval of this health claim for soy foods:

“Diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol that include 25 grams of soy protein a day may reduce the risk of heart disease.”

Unfortunately, according to the survey Consumer Attitudes About Nutrition 2008 (by the United Soybean Board):

  • As of 2007, 85 percent of consumers perceive soy products as healthful
  • 33 percent of Americans eat soy foods or beverages at least once a month
  • 70 percent of consumers believe soybean oil is good for them
  • 84 percent of consumers agree with the FDA’s claim that consuming 25 grams of soy protein daily reduces your risk of heart disease

Soy’s glowing healthy image is not based on science, however, but rather shrewd marketing and outright lies that have taken root among the masses. The end result is enormous profits for the soy industry and impaired health for most who have been deceived into using unfermented soy long-term.

What You Need to Know About Unfermented Soy

First and foremost, unfermented soy — the type found in most soy milk, soy burgers, soy ice cream, vegan ‘meat’, and even tofu — is not a health food.

If you were to carefully review the thousands of studies published on soy, I strongly believe you would reach the same conclusion as I have — which is, the risks of consuming unfermented soy products FAR outweigh any possible benefits.

Dr. Kaayla Daniel, author of The Whole Soy Story, points out thousands of studies linking soy to malnutrition, digestive distress, immune-system breakdown, thyroid dysfunction, cognitive decline, reproductive disorders and infertility — even cancer and heart disease.

Here is just a sampling of the health effects that have been linked to soy consumption:

  • Breast cancer
  • Brain damage
  • Infant abnormalities
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Kidney stones
  • Immune system impairment
  • Severe, potentially fatal food allergies
  • Impaired fertility
  • Danger during pregnancy and nursing

8 Top Reasons to Avoid Unfermented Soy

If you’re eating soy because you believe it is healthy, please do yourself and your family a favor and click on some of the links above as well as read through the list that follows. You’ll quickly see that soy, in its processed form, is not a food you want in your body.

  • 91 percent of soy grown in the US is genetically modified (GM) The genetic modification is done to impart resistance to the toxic herbicide Roundup. While this is meant to increase farming efficiency and provide you with less expensive soy, the downside is that your soy is loaded with this toxic pesticide. The plants also contain genes from bacteria that produce a protein that has never been part of the human food supply.
  • GM soy has been linked to an increase in allergies. Disturbingly, the only published human feeding study on GM foods ever conducted verified that the gene inserted into GM soy transfers into the DNA of our gut bacteria and continues to function. This means that years after you stop eating GM soy, you may still have a potentially allergenic protein continuously being produced in your intestines. Even more frightening is the potential for GM soy to cause infertility in future generations, which has been evidenced by recent Russian research.
  • Soy contains natural toxins known as “anti-nutrients” Soy foods contain anti-nutritional factors such as saponins, soyatoxin, phytates, protease inhibitors, oxalates, goitrogens and estrogens. Some of these factors interfere with the enzymes you need to digest protein. While a small amount of anti-nutrients would not likely cause a problem, the amount of soy that many Americans are now eating is extremely high.
  • Soy contains hemagglutinin Hemagglutinin is a clot-promoting substance that causes your red blood cells to clump together. These clumped cells are unable to properly absorb and distribute oxygen to your tissues.
  • Soy contains goitrogens Goitrogens are substances that block the synthesis of thyroid hormones and interfere with iodine metabolism, thereby interfering with your thyroid function.
  • Soy contains phytates Phytates (phytic acid) bind to metal ions, preventing the absorption of certain minerals, including calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc — all of which are co-factors for optimal biochemistry in your body. This is particularly problematic for vegetarians, because eating meat reduces the mineral-blocking effects of these phytates (so it is helpful — if you do eat soy — to also eat meat).
  • Soy has toxic levels of aluminum and manganese Soybeans are processed (by acid washing) in aluminum tanks, which can leach high levels of aluminum into the final soy product. Soy formula has up to 80 times higher manganese than is found in human breast milk.
  • The best way to eliminate non-fermented soy from your diet is to avoid all processed foods and instead purchase whole foods that you prepare yourself. If you do buy packaged foods, you can check the label to see if it contains soy.

You can also keep this list of soy foods to AVOID handy:

  • Tofu
  • TVP (texturized vegetable protein) or soy protein isolate
  • Soybean oil
  • Soymilk made with unfermented beans
  • Soy cheese, soy ice cream, soy yogurt
  • Soy “meat” (meatless products made of TVP)
  • Soy protein
  • Edamame
  • Soy infant formula

Is There a Healthy Way to Eat Soy?

Yes, and that’s by choosing fermented soy.

After a long fermentation process, the phytate (which blocks your body’s uptake of essential minerals) and anti-nutrient levels of soybeans are reduced, and their beneficial properties become available to your digestive system.

Traditionally fermented soy is the form that has been very popular in many Asian cultures for centuries, and numerous studies suggest it aids in preventing and reducing a variety of diseases including certain forms of heart disease and cancers.

One of the main benefits of fermented soy, especially natto, is that it is the best food source of vitamin K2. Vitamin K2 is essential to preventing osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, and diseases of the brain such as dementia, and protecting you from various cancers including prostate, lung, liver cancer and leukemia.

For these reasons, I strongly recommend adding fermented soy to your diet, in varieties such as the following:

  • Tempeh a fermented soybean cake with a firm texture and nutty, mushroom-like flavor.
  • Miso, a fermented soybean paste with a salty, buttery texture (commonly used in miso soup).
  • Natto, fermented soybeans with a sticky texture and strong, cheese-like flavor.
  • Tamari (soy sauce), which is traditionally made by fermenting soybeans, salt and enzymes; be wary because many varieties on the market today are made artificially using a chemical process.

These are the soy varieties that will actually support and nourish your health — unlike the vast majority of processed soy products on the market, which will do nothing but detract from it.